California is spending billions attempting to eradicate homelessness after the fact instead of dealing with the primary origins of homelessness, three of which too often form a cycle of brokenness: fatherless homes, military service and incarceration.
Frederick Douglass wrote, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Nevertheless, today, the lack of family (nuclear) formation first and divorce second has created a virtual Niagara Falls of broken children, a significant number of whom will succumb to a lifestyle of drugs, alcohol, crime, poverty and mental illness. Specifically, upward of 85% of the youth in prison come from fatherless homes as do upward of 70% of the adult male population in prison.
Eleven percent of homeless are veterans, many of whom are struggling with PTSD and drug and alcohol abuse. That number is hopefully in decline due to some successful programs to treat and house veterans along with the fact we have not been at war recently, as war churns out these struggling veterans in large numbers.
As for jails and prisons, upward of 50% of the homeless were formerly incarcerated, and the formerly incarcerated are 10 times more likely than the general population to be homeless.
Thanks to Gov. Jerry Brown and duped voters, California has been dumping prisoners onto our streets in mass quantities. For instance, Assembly Bill 109, the so-called prison realignment, amended some 500 criminal statutes to eliminate the possibility of state prison time. Hence, many of the criminals living on our streets should otherwise be in prison. AB109 reduced our prison population by more than 30,000 inmates over a two-year period.
Then there were Propositions 47 and 57, which respectively eliminated prison sentencing for scores of would-be felons, while the latter released thousands of prisoners before their time was up, despite the fact that most of them reoffended (by most counts, over 50%)!
Not to be outdone, Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced increasing early release credits for 76,000 inmates, including violent and repeat felons, as he closes prisons in California.
More than 63,000 inmates convicted of violent crimes will be eligible for good behavior credits that shorten their sentences by one-third instead of the one-fifth that had been in place since 2017. This will include nearly 20,000 inmates who are serving life sentences with the possibility of parole — er, read that, the probability of parole.
As usual, there is no plan to successfully reintegrate these people into society. They will come out with no job skills or prospects, no money for housing, and in too many cases (see above) no family to speak of.
Meanwhile, Gov. Newsom is closing the last facilities in our state juvenile justice system. In the 1990, there were 10,000 youth incarcerated in the juvenile prisons with another nearly 10,000 youth in the California Youth Authority’s parole system. Just as Gov. Brown’s realignment sent scores of state inmates to county jails, these juveniles were sent to county juvenile detention facilities. In both cases, these state inmates pushed out those who would have otherwise been incarcerated in local detention facilities.
Closer to home, Santa Barbara County supervisors are foolishly closing the Los Prietos Boys Camp that has been successfully helping youth since 1945. The camp provided male authority, discipline and leadership in a remote setting to boys who need father figures in their lives.
The alternatives to the once stable nuclear family construct are working just as well as the so-called criminal justice reform movement, which seeks to avoid jail and prison altogether, in that both have become a societal disaster leaving criminals, addicts and derelicts roaming our streets with little to no chance for redemption. Moreover, the government is throwing a house (via the housing first policy) at the homeless when what they really need is a home — something the government can’t provide.
Andy Caldwell is the COLAB executive director and host of “The Andy Caldwell Show,” airing 3 to 5 p.m. weekdays on KZSB AM 1290, the News-Press radio station.